In spite of her gifts as a communicator and writer, Heather Zempel is truly humble. She admits her mistakes and paints a picture of stumbling through the maze of small group ministry and leadership, but her passion and heart are also very clear. She loves people and isn’t afraid of a little mess – and in some cases a lot of mess. She doesn’t try to prescribe any particular model for building community but rather draws on her experiences (sometimes very funny) to give the reader some helpful tools for gaining a better perspective on your particular situation.
Here are some of my favorite quotes:
“I decided a couple years ago to stop trying to strike a balance [in my life] and to pursue life in rhythm instead.”
“People can find legitimate community and be discipled outside our structures.”
“Most people come into groups looking for social space; we encourage leaders to aim for taking their groups [beyond that] to personal space; and we hope individuals will look for intimate space opportunities with a select few inside the group.”
“We need to ensure that our routines don’t become routine.”
This is the best book I’ve ever read on small group ministry! If you’re a part of a small group or want to be, you should read this book!
Heather is actually a family friend, (As a child, Miranda played football with her every Thanksgiving. Mike was the all-time quarterback.) but. . . . well, nevermind – I can’t deny that I’m biased to this book, but it’s still the best I’ve ever read on community groups.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been praying for a job. I prayed that prayer for so long and with such desperation that I quit praying for smaller things. I was focused. I knew that God would provide, but as often as I was reminded of my situation, I prayed for it. And in the end, God proved Himself once again to be faithful as our provider.
However, now that my prayers aren’t as desperate, my prayer life has changed. I got out of the habit of praying for smaller things, cause I had one really big thing to pray about. It’s not that I didn’t believe God could do something about those smaller things, it’s just that I had different priorities. I wasn’t sweating the small stuff ’cause the BIG thing was overwhelming me.
As a result, I don’t find myself praying for the smaller things now either – I almost feel guilty doing so. I mean, I know other people in desperate situations too. How can I spend time praying for a better parking space or for there to be one more sausage biscuit in the fridge when I get up in the morning? When there are so many real issues, these things seem so trivial. But here’s what I’m discovering – well. . . discovering again: If I’m not praying for the little things, and I don’t have a BIG thing, then I’m simply not praying at all. And if I’m not praying at all, then I’m not growing closer to the LORD. Maybe these little prayers help me stay close to Him. Maybe they keep me grounded and remind me that He is ALWAYS present. He is Consistently Emmanuel – Always with me.
If I’m praying small prayers, ‘it’s cause I believe God is in control of everything and that He wants to be involved in the details of it all. I love when my kids ask me to help them put their shoes on or brush their teeth. Why wouldn’t God love to help us (His children) with our little things? Of course He would. He loves us. If He’s anything like me, not only does He enjoy helping, but He also feels honored to help. Maybe our asking Him to help us with the small things is another form of worship. If He is honored and glorified in it, then that sounds like worship to me.
Prayer: LORD, help me to prayer smaller prayers. I’m great at BIG desperate prayers, but need help when it comes to small things. You are always God – always sovereign – always concerned about Your kids. Teach me to come to You as a child and to honor You by praying crazy little prayers. AMEN.
OK – he’s only 16 months, but close enough. Kasen loves tents! When we go to the Bass Pro Shop, one of his favorite things to do is to run in and out of all the display tents.
Our small group went camping at Brazos Bend this week for Spring Break so Kasen and I made a quick day trip up to spend a night with them. He loved it! His first tent camping experience was a huge success. He went on a bike ride, played with his friends, helped find a geocache, fell asleep by the campfire, and slept til about 3am. He woke up and looked around a bit then snuggled back down into his sleeping bag for the rest of the night. He was still up like an alarm clock at 7am, but it was a good night.
Side note: We did have a little scare. Kesleigh had a skin infection and we were told we might need to take her to the hospital. The good news is that the antibiotics are working. Pray for her to have continued improving health.
I’m also grateful that we were also surrounded by great, caring friends (our small group) who prayed for her and engaged in some incredible conversations around the campfire. There’s just something about a campfire that brings those things out.
I just wanted to let everybody know about a new resource for small groups. Smallgroupexchange.com launched earlier this month and has tons of helpful materials. If you’re not too sure about something, they’ve got articles to help. There are also plenty of ideas and materials you can purchase (with reviews) to guide your study. They even have free training videos for small group leaders.
The smallgroupexchange folks have also asked me to do some writing/reviewing for their site. Wow! What an honor. You can check out my small group exchange bio here or one of my articles (What should we Study? & Leadership is Service). While you’re there, you should check out Heather Zempel’s articles. She’s a great writer and small group guru who has been a family friend to Miranda for her whole life. She’s quickly become my friend too. She also has a great blog called Wineskins for Discipleship.
The other day, I had lunch with an old friend who I hadn’t seen much of in a couple of years. As we talked, I realized how much of life has really changed. Not only has Kasen become a part of our lives, but I have also started school since then. We’ve also seen quite a few changes in our church since then – we’ve gotten involved in a small group and begun investing our lives in some other people, and we’ve been a part of some youth growing in their relationships with God.
Anyway, before we got together, I kinda wondered what we’d talk about, but now that it’s happened I realize how much we had to catch up on. I guess when you’re in the middle of change, it always seems really small, and like you’re not really getting anywhere, (like a drop in the ocean) but when you step out of it a while. . . .well, you realize how big the changes really have been.
Kinda like Kasen – everyone keeps talking about how much he’s grown. He still seems like the same little boy to me, but when my new niece (Kallie Grace) was born a few weeks ago and weighed almost the same that Kasen did, I realized how much he has grown.
They say that in 7 years our bodies have completely reproduced themselves. We don’t have one single cell in common with the body we had 7 years earlier. It changes at such a small rate that we don’t ever even realize it.
Anyway, all this is to say that sometimes I get discouraged that we’re not really making a difference in people’s lives or that God has not been doing much in our church. When this happens, it’s good for me to find a way to step out and get a better perspective on things ’cause the truth is that God is ALWAYS at work around us – changing and molding us into His image.
Whoa! Last night, I had class – it was the second of our 5 Gospel Literature classes at College for Biblical Studies. Anyway, there’s a guy in my class (Justin) who was going to sing a song for the group ’cause it went along with our discussion on Matthew 1. ( Andrew Peterson’s song “Matthew’s Begats” on Behold the Lamb of God – By the way, you should all check out Andrew Peterson – He’s an amazing writer. www.andrew-peterson.com )
Anyway, he had a guitar player who joined him, named Tim Dillon. I would never have recognized him, but Tim was one of the students who came to a youth program I was a part of in Tomball called “The Wave.” It was a skate ministry and by God’s grace there were lots of youth who came that were not from our church. For that matter, I’ll just be blunt and say they were really “rough” kids with drug problems and all sorts of issues. Some of the people in our church, wouldn’t let their own children come ’cause they didn’t want their kids around “those” kids. Anyway, come to find out, Tim was one of “those” kids. He said that he came every week just to skate, but most of the time he was stoned when he got there. I certainly knew that we had quite a few who were coming like that, but we still had the opportunity to let them know they were loved and to tell them about Jesus so I figured it was a good thing. Anyway, I’ll never really know a whole lot about what God accomplished during those days with those students, but I feel confident that there were seeds planted which with God’s help will grow and produce amazing fruit.
Tim has come to know Jesus now. Interestingly enough, he is a pastor’s son and it was after watching some friends die, that he became serious about knowing God. He plays guitar for an artist named Jimmy Needham now too. (Check him out @ www.jimmyneedham.com) It’s great to see that God is still at work among us all even when we don’t have a clue.